Archive:

September 2005, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Heather Will Have Two Mommies:  And a daddy, if this British experimental effort to correct some rare genetic defects succeeds.
UK scientists have won permission to create a human embryo that will have three parents, charting new territory in the controversy over "designer babies"

The ground-breaking work aims to prevent mothers from passing certain genetic diseases on to their unborn babies and will create an embryo that has genetic material from two mothers and a father.

Such diseases, which are known as mitochondrial, arise from DNA found outside the nucleus and thus inherited separately from DNA in the nucleus.
. . .
The Newcastle plan involves fertilising an egg in-vitro from a woman carrying mitochondrial defects, using her partner's sperm.  At the point of fertilisation, two "pro-nuclei" containing genetic material from the mother and father will be removed, and injected into an unfertilised egg from which the nucleus has been removed.
So the fertilized egg will then have DNA from one woman in the nucleus and DNA from another woman outside the nucleus in the mitochondria.  Similar techniques have been used in an attempt to cure infertility, something I discussed here and here, but as far as I know this is the first time the technique has been used in an effort to cure mitochondrial diseases.

Mitochondria supply power to our cells.  Which explains why one researcher came up with this analogy.
Professor John Burn, from the Department of Clinical Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, stressed that today's announcement would not lead to "designer babies".

"From a philosophical or medical point of view there is no reason why we should not do this," he said.

"I would use the analogy of simply replacing the battery in a pocket radio to explain what we are doing.  You are not altering the radio at all - just giving it a new power source.
Well in that case, I suppose it should be OK, as long as they don't put in a D cell where they really need a AAA.

(Need a review of mitochondria?  Here's the Wikipedia entry.)
- 4:20 PM, 8 September 2005   [link]


It's Not a 'Blame Game' , say the editorial writers at the New York Times, by which they mean not that they intend to stop the blame game they have been playing, but that they object to President Bush calling it what it is.
Mr. Bush signaled yesterday that we are in for more of the same when he sneered and said, "One of the things that people want us to do here is to play a blame game."  This is not a game.   It is critical to know what "things went wrong," as Mr. Bush put it.  But we also need to know which officials failed - not to humiliate them, but to replace them with competent people.
In fact, most of the columnists at the New York Times have been playing the blame game, as have the editorialists, and some of the reporters.  Many of them have no interest in learning which officials failed; they already are pinning all the blame on the Bush administration.

In this, the journalists at the New York Times are like those in most other "mainstream" news organizations.  But the public, if this Gallup poll is to be believed, isn't buying their argument.  Just 13 percent blame Bush for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane.

And a few journalists are even beginning to commit journalism and go out and find out what happened.  For instance, Lisa Meyers of NBC, a week behind the blogosphere, asked why New Orleans hadn't used those school buses in the evacuation.  And ABC went even farther and discovered that United States has a federal system of government, which means that states have their own responsibilities.
In New Orleans, those in peril and those in power have pointed the finger squarely at the federal government for the delayed relief effort.

But experts say when natural disasters strike, it is the primary responsibility of state and local governments -- not the federal government -- to respond.
And ABC even noted that New Orleans did not follow its evacuation plan "completely", an understatement if I ever heard one.  What makes that failure especially infuriating is that New Orleans had gone through two experiences recently that should have shown them that their plan needed work, hurricane Ivan, and a big exercise last year that exposed many weaknesses.

The Washington Post commits more journalism with this article.   The title, "Money Flowed to Questionable Projects", and their subtitle, "State Leads in Army Corps Spending, but Millions Had Nothing to Do With Floods" are a good summary of the content.  For instance:
Before Hurricane Katrina breached a levee on the New Orleans Industrial Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers had already launched a $748 million construction project at that very location.  But the project had nothing to do with flood control.  The Corps was building a huge new lock for the canal, an effort to accommodate steadily increasing barge traffic.

Except that barge traffic on the canal has been steadily decreasing.

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular.  But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate.  Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.
Louisiana politicians, especially Senator Landrieu, were interested in pork, but not much interested in improving the levees.  It is not surprising that she has been so loud in blaming the Bush administration.

In fact, I suspect that when we know the facts better, we will find that those who have been playing the blame game the loudest are often those who are most at fault.  And that includes, amusingly enough, the New York Times, which has opposed the strengthening of the levees in New Orleans — but has not exactly stressed that stand recently.  Let's see, who was the loudest of all?  That would be the mayor Nagin, I think.

(There are two useful discussions, now that we are beginning to have enough facts to play the blame game, in this piece by Bob Williams, and this piece by Bobby Jindal.  Williams is more certain than I am about who to blame (Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin), but then he is more certain about almost everything than I am.  Congressman Jindal has been hearing many complaints, some no doubt justified, about bureaucratic hold ups.  But then a big part of his job, as congressman, is getting government officials to do their jobs, in spite of the bureaucracy.

Speaking of Jindal, many of us will wonder whether the Katrina catastrophe would have been handled better if he had defeated Blanco in their 2003 runoff.)
- 12:49 PM, 8 September 2005   [link]


72 Hours?  Or 48 hours?  Or 24 hours?  The New Orleans evacuation plan assumed that the city would have 72 hours to evacuate.  But if you read this detailed post from Reverend Sensing, you'll see that it was not clear until about 24 hours before Katrina hit that it would hit the city and that it would be a category 4 or 5 storm.

The storm hit New Orleans Monday morning at about 8 AM, local time.  Three days before, Friday morning, Katrina was hundreds of miles away, and just a category 2 storm.  It was predicted to strengthen and move toward New Orleans, but as we all know, weather predictions that far out are often wrong.  Still, that is when — according to the official plan — that New Orleans was supposed to begin its evacuation.

Mayor Nagin actually waited until 5 PM Saturday to suggest that residents leave.  And he waited until Sunday morning, just 23 hours before the storm hit, to issue an evacuation order.

Reverend Sensing thinks that, at best, Mayor Nagin could have ordered an evacuation Saturday morning, that is, about 48 hours before Katrina hit.  But this just shows that the 72 hour plan was unrealistic.  We can not predict the course and strength of hurricanes accurately enough, 72 hours in advance, so that a 72 hour evacuation plan could work.  If nothing else, there will be too much resistance from inhabitants of the threatened area, most of whom will have seen other hurricanes weaken and swerve.  Mayor Nagin said that one reason he postponed even the evacuation warning was that he feared lawsuits from businesses that lost customers.

So a 72 hour evacuation plan is not realistic.  But a 48 hour plan might be.  Many left before Mayor Nagin's Saturday evening suggestion and many more left before his Sunday morning order.   Estimates I've seen are that about 80 percent of the population did get out.  That suggests to me that close to 100 percent could have gotten out in 48 hours had the order been given in time and had the evacuation been handled better.  For example, Louisiana has a plan for converting its highways to what they call "contraflow" so that both sides of a highway can be used for evacuations.  They did not switch to this system until 4 PM on Saturday, a delay that needs explanation.

Most baffling of all is the failure of Mayor Nagin to follow the city's own plan to use buses to evacuate those who did not have their own transportation.  I find this decision, or non-decision, so extraordinary that I hope there is some explanation for it, other than the obvious one — gross incompetence.

(I used Rich Moran's useful timeline in writing this post.  I did find one error in it; he says that the contraflow was started by the city of New Orleans at noon on Sunday, but the article he links to says this:
State officials launched contraflow in the New Orleans area Saturday at 4 p.m. and announced it would end Sunday at 4 p.m.  Officials said they needed to remove police directing contraflow traffic to safe locations.
And I am troubled by his almost complete reliance on a single newspaper, the Times-Picayune, which was having its own problems during the storm.  And has been hysterical, a word I do not use lightly, since the storm.)
- 1:37 PM, 7 September 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  Jeff Johnson of CNSNews has an enlightening account of what Louisiana officials have been doing about problems in New Orleans during the last decade.

In short, not much.  You can find the medium answer in these snippets:
In December of 1995, the Orleans Levee Board, the local government entity that oversees the levees and floodgates designed to protect New Orleans and the surrounding areas from rising waters, bragged in a supplement to the Times-Picayune newspaper about federal money received to protect the region from hurricanes.

"In the past four years, the Orleans Levee Board has built up its arsenal.  The additional defenses are so critical that Levee Commissioners marched into Congress and brought back almost $60 million to help pay for protection," the pamphlet declared.  "The most ambitious flood-fighting plan in generations was drafted.  An unprecedented $140 million building campaign launched 41 projects."
. . .
But less than a year later, that same levee board was denied the authority to refinance its debts.   Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle "repeatedly faulted the Levee Board for the way it awards contracts, spends money and ignores public bid laws," according to the Times-Picayune.
. . .
By 1998, Louisiana's state government had a $2 billion construction budget, but less than one tenth of one percent of that -- $1.98 million -- was dedicated to levee improvements in the New Orleans area.   State appropriators were able to find $22 million that year to renovate a new home for the Louisiana Supreme Court and $35 million for one phase of an expansion to the New Orleans convention center.
. . .
Earlier this year, the levee board did complete a $2.5 million restoration project.  After months of delays, officials rolled away fencing to reveal the restored 1962 Mardi Gras fountain in a four-acre park featuring a new 600-foot plaza between famous Lakeshore Drive and the sea wall.
But you'll want to read the whole thing.  (And I am sure that the Mardi Gras fountain is (or was) very nice.)

(As I am sure you know, failure to follow the law in awarding contracts is often a sign of corruption.)
- 10:37 AM, 7 September 2005   [link]


Spreading A Nasty Rumor:  That's what one reporter was doing at the Bush/Clinton press conference.
Towards the end, as Bush and Clinton were walking off the stage, at about 10:20 am EST, I heard a female reporter shout a last question that went "how do you respond to rumors that the levees were intentionally opened?"
(Some of the commenters at Free Republic and at Little Green Footballs (where I found this) think the reporter was Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.  If so, you can find some interesting background on her here and here.)

That's incredibly irresponsible — even for a journalist.
- 8:46 AM, 7 September 2005   [link]


Do You Believe In Magic?  Some Bush bashers do.  If you look at the comments from Paul Deignan in this post, you'll see that he believes that President Bush has magical powers, that he should have known in advance that Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco would fail and that he should have taken control of Louisiana, or at least New Orleans, before the hurricane hit.  When somewhat more rational commenters pointed out that this was illegal (as well as requiring magical powers), Deignan responded by saying, more or less, that Bush should have broken the law and defied the Constitution.  Note, for instance, that he approves (in comment 98) of Althor's argument that Bush should have defied the law.

I'm not sure which of these two arguments is the most distressing, that President Bush (or any other president) has magical powers, or that President Bush (or any other president) should break the law and defy the Constitution.

I will give Deignan credit for one thing: Unlike some other Bush bashers, he is honest enough to say that he believes that Bush has magical powers (though Deignan may not realize he is saying that), and he does not shrink from saying that Bush should have broken the laws — and deserves enormous blame for not breaking the laws.  There are nations where leaders act that way; we usually call them dictatorships.  Bush basher Deignan is condemning Bush for not being a dictator.  Other Bush bashers share this view, but do not say it so plainly.

(Should Deignan have hijacked the post, by changing the subject?  Of course not.  It is not his site, and he should show some respect for "Patterico" by staying on topic.)
- 8:03 AM, 7 September 2005   [link]


Disaster Area Tour Postponed:  As a few of you know, I had been planning my own tour of disaster areas, starting today.  (Not the Katrina disaster area, but somewhat older areas.)  I'm feeling a little under the weather, and so I am going to put that off for a week or so.

(Nothing serious.  I have just been wondering whether that "free" meal from a Chinese restaurant I had on Sunday was really a bargain.  By the time you read this, I will probably be at 95 percent, and expect to be fine in a day or two.)
- 12:12 PM, 6 September 2005
Or Maybe  I will be visiting a future disaster area.
- 2:16 PM, 7 September 2005   [link]


What We Really Need Is A Great Speech:  When I saw the lead sentence in this New York Times editorial, I at first thought they were joking.
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom.
So what Katrina victims mostly need is a great speech?  Scott Ott, who is way better at parody than I am, replied with this post.
One New Orleans man, currently living in the 'Plaza End Zone' section of the Superdome as he awaits news of his missing family members, said, "I can survive for some time with little water, no food and highly unsanitary conditions...but if I don't hear some poetic words of comfort and stirring verbal imagery from the president pretty soon, I'm a goner."

A White House spokesman said additional speech writers have been flown in to accelerate completion of "a magnificent, almost-Clintonesque display of rhetorical compassion."  However, it could take up to a week of pronunciation rehearsal before the president is ready to deliver the speech to the nation.
Most of us have learned not to expect much from editorialists at the New York Times.  But I do expect a little common sense from Joe Gandelman, even if he is a "veteran journalist".   Sadly, he has been making this same argument — that we really need a great speech — in a number of posts, for instance, this one.

Since I respect Gandelman, I'll take his argument seriously.  How important are great speeches in times of crisis?  Generally, they don't matter at all.  If I am given the choice of going to battle under an inarticulate general who is brilliant strategist or under a general who speaks beautifully but does not understand how to win, I'll choose the first every time.  And the same is true, though perhaps not so obviously, of political leaders.  FDR made moving speeches during the Great Depression.  But his policies, taken as a whole, most likely lengthened and worsened the depression.  He cared and he made great speeches, but he often made the wrong choices.  And the same was true of his planning for the post-war world.  His naivete in thinking that he could handle Stalin, as he had handled so many American political leaders, made our strategic postion worse.  Truman was never as eloquent as his predecessor, but it is hard not to conclude that his overall grasp of strategy was sounder.

Or consider the case of Churchill in World War II.  No doubt his speeches, especially after the fall of France, did raise morale in Britain.  But that would not have mattered had not Churchill also chosen, mostly, the right overall strategy.

And there is that point about individual responsibility that I have mentioned before.   Children may need sweet talking from their teachers, but adults should be able to motivate themselves.  If we say that we need a speech from a political leader to get us going, then we are saying that we are not wholly adult, a confession I, unlike Gandelman, wouldn't want to make.

What we need in this crisis, as in most, is not fancy speeches, but correct strategic choices, and good management.  I haven't come to any final conclusions about whether we have been getting those from our government officials at any level.  (One exception: I do think that the people of New Orleans have some explaining to do about their police department.)  Unlike most journalists, I would like to have more information before I start condemning anyone.

(I wonder, as I have before, whether this over emphasis on words is a common fault among journalists.  They do, after all, make their living from words, so it is easy to believe that they may give words more weight than anyone should.)
- 5:49 AM, 6 September 2005   [link]


7-2 Or 5-4?  The death of Chief Justice Rehnquist was followed immediately by obituaries such as this one by Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times.  Most of the obituaries reported the vote count in one of his most famous cases, Bush v. Gore, in which the Supreme Court overruled the Florida Supreme Court and ended the attempts to find enough votes to put Gore over the top in Florida.   Every obituary that I have seen or heard that reports the vote count in that case gets it wrong.  For example, here's what Greenhouse says:
The Rehnquist years included one historic episode of galvanizing drama and deep divisiveness, the decision in Bush v. Gore that decided the 2000 presidential election by ending the recount in Florida and handing a wafer-thin victory to George W. Bush.  Though Chief Justice Rehnquist voted with the 5-to-4 majority, his central role in the case was largely behind the scenes and the controlling opinion did not carry his name.
But the vote to reverse the Florida court was not 5-4 but 7-2.
Seven Justices of the Court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demand a remedy.
The seven justices then split over the remedy, with two holding out hope for complete recount, though that would have almost certainly meant missing a legal deadline.

Why do leftists like Greenhouse say that Bush v. Gore was a 5-4 decision?  To make the decision appear partisan.  (A Clinton appointee, Justice Breyer, voted with the seven member majority.)  Greenhouse knows that the main vote in the case was 7-2.  That she chose to ignore that and mention the subsidiary 5-4 vote is another example of the bias (and dishonesty) that many of us find so annoying in the "mainstream" media.

(How would I briefly describe the votes on the decision?  I'd give the 7-2 vote first and then add the 5-4 vote in a parenthetical sentence.)
- 8:16 AM, 5 September 2005   [link]


Quitting Time:  That's what Katrina was for many New Orleans police officers.
Reeling from the chaos of this overwhelmed city, at least 200 New Orleans police officers have walked away from their jobs and two have committed suicide, police officials said on Saturday.

Some officers told their superiors they were leaving, police officials said.  Others worked for a while and then stopped showing up.  Still others, for reasons not always clear, never made it in after the storm.

The absences come during a period of extraordinary stress for the New Orleans Police Department.   For nearly a week, many of its 1,500 members have had to work around the clock, trying to cope with flooding, an overwhelming crush of refugees, looters and occasional snipers.
I may be wrong, but I think that policemen in most American cities would rise to this kind of challenge.   They might resign later, especially if they had earned their pensions, but they would have enough pride to stay on the job until the crisis was over.

The New York Times doesn't mention it, but I have seen several reports that at least a few New Orleans policemen took advantage of the disaster to become looters.  Sadly, given the history of the New Orleans police force, this does not seem at all implausible.
- 4:12 PM, 4 September 2005
Maybe Not:  Here's an alternative explanation for the missing officers.
- 1:56 PM, 29 September 2005   [link]


Suspicious Minds:  Tom Maguire has one, too.  After the levee broke in New Orleans, I mentioned this possibility.
That the levees failed hours after Katrina had passed suggests to me that they had flaws.   It is not unusual for burrowing animals to create holes in levees that allow enough water to leak through to undermine a levee and cause it to break.  And, of course, this being New Orleans, we can't rule out corruption in either the construction or maintenance of the levees.
Maguire may be even more suspicious than I am; at the end of a post, he adds this thought.
Let me throw in my own guess - eventually, the contractor who upgraded the 17th St. levee will be investigated, and the contract will be found to have been influnced by poltical intrigue.  In Louisiana!
(Usually Maguire is a better speller.)

But then he has more information than I had.  the levee that failed had, as he says, been recently upgraded and was thought to be one of the strongest in New Orleans.  And both of us know that New Orleans and Louisiana have earned their reputations for corruption.
- 3:45 PM, 4 September 2005   [link]


Football Season Has Started:  Which is lucky for me, because I have found most of the coverage of Katrina on television so infuriating that I have been unable to watch it.  And the newspapers haven't been much better.  Nearly all our journalists are determined to blame every loss, every failure, on President Bush — regardless of the facts.

Who should be blamed?  In many cases, no one, considering the size of the storm.  But where there is blame to assign, we should look first at individuals — however politically incorrect that may be.  For decades, residents of New Orleans have been urged to prepare for a hurricane and flooding.  Many did not.  In the days before the hurricane struck, President Bush, Governor Blanco, and Mayor Nagin urged the complete evacuation of the city.  Many residents chose to stay.  And then after the flood hit, many able-bodied people chose to stay in terrible conditions rather than walk away.

More than any government official, we are responsible for ourselves and for our families.   We are also responsible for our neighbors.  There were young men in New Orleans who could have helped their elderly and disabled neighbors to evacuate.  In a story you may have heard about, one did.
A New Orleans teenager saved dozens of people from the stricken city after commandeering a 70-seat school bus and driving it on a harrowing 300-mile journey to Houston.

Jabbar Gibson, who was reported by an American television channel to be just 15, was determined to leave New Orleans after two days wading alone through the filthy waters of the former red-light district of Storyville.  Although he had never driven a bus in his life, he broke into a school and made off with the bright yellow vehicle.
. . .
Although he had only eight passengers on board when he set off on Highway 10 towards Texas, Gibson picked up many more, young and old, stranded beside the road during the eight-hour journey.

"By the time we gotten here we had all kinds of folk on board, from mothers with young babies to people in their seventies and eighties," said Gibson, speaking from Houston.  "And when we ran out of gas we had a whip-round and everyone gave me enough cents to fill up and get here."
I credit Gibson for his actions, but I wonder why his story wasn't repeated hundreds of times.   There must be hundreds of men and women in New Orleans who drive buses regularly.  Why did they not do what Gibson did?  Why didn't transit and school officials mobilize their drivers and provide rides to those who needed them?

Why are our journalists unwilling to even ask such questions?  Partly it is because they see nearly everything in terms of government actions, especially federal government actions.  There are already polls asking which level of government should be blamed.  I haven't checked, but I doubt whether many of the pollsters will even ask whether individuals should be held responsible.   And partly, I fear, it is a matter of liberal racism.  Many journalists simply don't think that blacks, or at least poor blacks, can do much without government help.

I'll have something to say about the failures by governments in future posts.  Meanwhile, if you see any stories in the "mainstream" media that even suggest that individuals in New Orleans might be partly responsible for their plight, I would appreciate a pointer to them.

(If you think I am being too hard on the "mainstream" media, read this pair of columns.  In the first, Lee Ellis explains logically why the coverage of Katrina made him switch to Fox News.  In the second, the executive editor of the Seattle Times, Michael Fancher, tells us emotionally how wonderful "mainstream" journalists are.  If Fancher has even a clue that some of his readers disagree, it is not apparent.  (From reading Fancher over the years, I have concluded, reluctantly, that he does not understand how unhappy many readers are — and that he does not want to understand.  As far as I can tell, he prefers to remain out of touch.)

Kate McMillan makes a similar argument about individual responsibility in this post.

What are my own preparations for disaster?  I have a little camp stove and enough fuel so that I could boil water for at least a week.  I have an old mountain bike that I could use for evacuation, if the roads were closed to cars.  I have a tent and two sleeping bags.  I have enough dried and canned food to last for several days.  And I have a battery powered radio with spare batteries.  If ordered to leave, I could be twenty miles away from here in four hours, with enough supplies so that I would not need any assistance for a week.

Finally, I have identified two homes in my neighborhood that I believe hold elderly people who may need help if there were orders to evacuate.  If such orders came, I would go to both homes to check on the people there.)
- 8:26 AM, 4 September 2005   [link]


Bush Saves Fourteen During Katrina:  No, not George W. Bush, but a different bush in a Mississippi town.
For five hours, 14 members of Waveland's police department held on desperately to a spindly bush as they watched the town they swore to protect being torn apart by Hurricane Katrina.

Debris shot past them; tin roofs fired up into the air; a shrimp boat swept past in churning sea waters as they clung to the 8-foot-tall bush. Blasted by a storm surge some say was 30 feet high Monday morning, this town got some of the worst of Katrina.

Three days later, the anemic-looking, red-tipped bush in front of the police department has become a shrine to Waveland's men and women in blue.  There's now a hand-carved wooden cross placed in the bush to highlight its role in a remarkable story of survival — a sign of hope as police go about the grim duty of recovering bodies and trying to help shocked survivors in the town of 7,000 about 35 miles east of New Orleans.
The police chief had been thinking about removing the bush, but hadn't gotten around to it.
- 2:02 PM, 3 September 2005   [link]


Blood For Oil:  That has been official American policy for three decades.  The policy had strong support from nearly everyone when it was established and still has strong support on the left, especially among environmentalists.

Which policy?  The CAFE standards.
One of the least controversial provisions of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (P. L. 94-163) established corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for new passenger cars.  As oil prices rose, there was little expectation that manufacturers would have any difficulty complying with the standards.  However, oil prices softened and the demand for small cars diminished.  In response to petitions from manufacturers facing stiff civil penalties for noncompliance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) relaxed the standard for model years 1986-1989.

The current standard is 27.5 mpg for passenger automobiles and 20.7 mpg for light trucks, a classification that also includes sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
How is this blood for oil?  The simplest way to improve gas mileage is to make cars lighter, and that's just what manufacturers have done.  That meant, everything else being equal, less protection for the driver and the passengers.  (Everything else isn't always equal.  It is possible to make a light car that is quite safe and a heavy car that is dangerous, but there are inherent advantages to heavier vehicles, as those who have ridden in an M1 tank could tell you.)

How much blood?  At a minimum, hundreds of deaths.   Each year.
A 2001 National Academy of Sciences report backed the essence of his [John D. Graham's] safety research.  The panel attributed 1,300 to 2,600 fatalities in 1993 alone specifically to the fuel-economy regulations.
Over the thirty years that the regulations have been in force, that would be a total death toll comparable to our losses in the Korean War or the Vietnam war.  Or, to give it a current comparison, the death toll from the CAFE standards each year will be almost certainly be much higher than the death toll from hurricane Katrina.

But these deaths from the CAFE standards come mostly one or two at a time and so get little attention from the national media.  (Local media love car crashes, but I can't recall any story saying that the people might have survived had they been in heavier vehicles.)   In fact, this story, in the New York Times, is not really about the death toll, but about the Bush administration's efforts to improve fuel economy without making cars still more dangerous.   The Bush administration has the right person in charge of this effort.
An architect of the administration plan is John D. Graham, a top official at the Office of Management and Budget.  In his previous life as an academic, with some of his research financed by the auto industry, Mr. Graham found that lighter-weight vehicles led to thousands of unnecessary traffic fatalities.  "The intent of the administration's C.A.F.E. reform plan is threefold," Mr. Graham said in an e-mail Friday.  "To save more fuel, to reduce the unintended safety risks to motorists, and to provide an equitable regulatory framework for all vehicle manufacturers."
Graham is an expert on the costs of regulation.  We usually think of those costs in dollars, but sometimes, as with the CAFE standards, the costs of regulation include lives.

(Think I was too hard on the environmental organizations?  Here's the Sierra Club's position on CAFE standards.  They want to raise the standard for cars to 45 miles per gallon.  At a guess, that would cause hundreds of additional deaths each year.

There's another policy, free right turns on red lights, adopted at the about the same time, that may also cause additional deaths.  From the newspaper reports I have seen, the change in laws has caused additional pedestrian deaths.  And those who have died have been just the kinds of people you would expect, the inattentive (mostly children) and the slow (mostly elderly).  But the policy probably has saved a little gas.

Knowing the risks from smaller cars, I still own one, a Ford Focus.  But I do try to avoid driving during the high accident hours when the drunks are out, and I drive even more defensively than I would otherwise.

Finally, I should add that National Academy of Science estimate of lives lost is lower than some others, as this column mentions.   As far as I can tell, no serious student of the subject does not think that the standards cost some lives, though how many is in dispute.)
- 9:30 AM, 3 September 2005   [link]


Political Blame On Katrina Can Wait for later, I have thought.  But I can't resist mentioning this pair of ideas.  Some on the left have been saying that Bush has not been helping New Orleans because the people there are mostly black Democrats.  But one lefty blogger wasn't sure he wanted to contribute to the victims because the states hit by Katrina voted for Bush.
I'm not going to post the piece I started to write.

My original reaction to the Katrina catastrophe was going to be: "NOT ONE DIME."

For an hour or so, I contemplated the idea of turning it into a crusade: No-one in the blue states (where the money is) should give one dime of aid to the victims of this hurricane, which devastated Bush-friendly regions.
(Which will remind more than one person of Michael Moore's puzzlement that the 9/11 terrorists would hit areas that hadn't voted for Bush in 2000.)

Looking at the demographics in the section on Sharpton, I would guess that the damage fell about equally on Republicans and on Democrats — but I hadn't even thought about the question until I read that post.

And, for myself, I can't imagine asking for party cards before I try to help people who need it.   From everything I have seen President Bush, Governor Blanco, Governor Barbour, and Mayor Nagin share that view — along with every other decent person.
- 3:51 PM, 2 September 2005   [link]


What Kind Of City Is New Orleans?  Physically, it is built on a pile of mud that is slowly sliding into the Gulf of Mexico.
From the Mississippi border to the Texas state line, Louisiana is losing its protective fringe of marshes and barrier islands faster than any place in the U.S.  Since the 1930s some 1,900 square miles (4,900 square kilometers) of coastal wetlands—a swath nearly the size of Delaware or almost twice that of Luxembourg—have vanished beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Despite nearly half a billion dollars spent over the past decade to stem the tide, the state continues to lose about 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) of land each year, roughly one acre every 33 minutes.

A cocktail of natural and human factors is putting the coast under. Delta soils naturally compact and sink over time, eventually giving way to open water unless fresh layers of sediment offset the subsidence.  The Mississippi's spring floods once maintained that balance, but the annual deluges were often disastrous.
So New Orleans chose to trade annual floods for an occasional catastrophic flood.  The choice may have been a mistake, given what we now know, but it will be impossible to go back without displacing thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people.

(The National Geographic article was written before Katrina.  I think you will find it prophetic, and I think you will be struck, as I was, by the absence of a good long term solution.  There may be one, but there is no consensus among the experts on what it would be.  Some want higher levees; others want to breach the current levees and go back to the annual floods.)

Economically, New Orleans is declining.  That's one big reason why the population of the city dropped 2.5 percent in the last census, while the population of Louisiana was growing 5.9 percent, and the population of the United States was growing 13.1 percent.   New Orleans is a place that you leave, if you can.

Politically, New Orleans is dysfunctional and has been for years.
And the locals and outsiders who try to help New Orleans in the weeks and months to come will do so with no local institutional infrastructure to back them up.  New Orleans has no real competent government or civil infrastructure—and no aggressive media or organized citizens' groups to prod public officials in the right direction during what will be, in the best-case scenario, a painstaking path to normalcy.
. . .
A city blessed with robust, professional police and fire forces, with capable government leaders, an informed citizenry, and a relatively resilient economy can overcome catastrophe, but it doesn't emerge stronger: look at New York after 9/11.
. . .
In New Orleans, the recovery will be much, much harder. The city's government has long suffered from incompetence and corruption.  Just weeks before Katrina, federal officials indicted associates of the former mayor, Marc Morial, for alleged kickbacks and contract fraud.  Morial did nothing to attract diversified private investment to his impoverished city during the greatest economic boom of the modern era.
And no one familiar with the city was surprised to see some New Orleans policemen joining in the looting.

Psychologically, New Orleans, like Venice and, even more, Naples, has long lived with the possibility that it would be destroyed.
As we mourn New Orleans, let us also celebrate it, as New Orleanians famously celebrate their own dead.  The city has long been admired for its literary creativity, its exceptional food, and its wonderful music, and deplored — albeit also frequented — because of its legendary corruption and degradation.  The possibility of its destruction no doubt played a role in the character of its people, and it is no accident that an annual bacchanal took place there, in the riotous celebrations of Mardi Gras.
And that psychology may have played a part in keeping the city from making adequate preparations for the disaster.  It might help explain, for instance, why the city had no plan to evacuate those who could not evacuate themselves.
- 8:49 AM, 2 September 2005   [link]


To See A Large Satellite Photo Of New Orleans, look here.   The flooding is easy to see, and you can spot the few dry areas on the edges of the city.

(I learned about the photograph going through the individual posts on the New Orleans Times-Picayune site.  I don't suppose that the people posting are typical, but their posts do give you some feeling for what is happening in the city.)
- 3:57 PM, 1 September 2005   [link]


Want To Help The Victims Of Katrina?  Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has a few suggestion, and some good examples.   Like him, I plan to contribute to the Salvation Army.

Thanks to Glenn for helping organize this "blogburst".
- 3:46 PM, 1 September 2005   [link]


Shooting At Rescue Helicopters?  That's what happened in New Orleans, according to this Associated Press account.
The evacuation of the Superdome was suspended Thursday after shots were fired at a military helicopter, an ambulance official overseeing the operation said.  No immediate injuries were reported.

"We have suspended operations until they gain control of the Superdome," said Richard Zeuschlag, head of Acadian Ambulance, which was handling the evacuation of sick and injured people from the Superdome.
That is sick.  I can understand looters, though I despise them, but shooting at helicopters that are evacuating the sick and injured can bring no gain to the shooter, and may cause deaths, directly and indirectly.  Most likely just one man is doing this.  I hope he is caught or shot soon.
- 6:16 AM, 1 September 2005   [link]